Archive for the Reviews Category

Review: Power Trip

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on April 13, 2017 by Magadh

Power Trip, Nightmare Logic, Southern Lord

power trip2There are a number of things that differentiate this disc from Power Trip’s previous outing (2013’s Manifest Decimation), but the one that you’re really going to notice if you’ve heard the earlier release is the production. Manifest Decimation was a good record in a lot of respects, an example of the mid-80s style thrashmetal that occasionally lifts its head above the sea of black metal and grindcore. It has some pretty good songwriting and a decent degree of aggression. The main problem was that the recording seemed so awash in something (reverb probably) that it made the songs hard to discern.

I’ve got no problem with raw recording values in metal and hardcore. Sometimes, given the right overall tone, it can add an element of atmosphere (I won’t tax you by reciting where I think this is the case but if you page back some of my reviews you will find ample evidence). But in the case of Manifest Decimation, it just made it difficult to follow the chord changes without really adding the needed atmospheric dimension.

I am happy to report that this problem has been sorted in their new disc. Nightmare Logic is crisply recorded and features a wealth of punch, intense thrash metal cuts. Those who heard their split with Integrity from last year will have seen the moves in this direction, but the release of Nightmare Logic shows that they can put it together for a whole album’s worth of material, which is worthy of note. And let’s be clear: this album absolutely rips. They don’t have quite the tonality of a band like Havok, but they are none the worse for being a bit nastier.

power trip1As you might expect given the four year gap between their full releases, there are other improvements to be noted. Power Trip have made notable advances in terms of songwriting and arranging. Their sound is reminiscent (at least to my ear) the thrashmetal bands that labels like Combat seemed to release with such frequency back in 1980s, particularly Dark Angel, with whom they share more than a passing similarity. That said, their songs are more complex and intensively developed than Dark Angel were in their heyday.

That said, their songs are more complex and intensively developed than Dark Angel were in their heyday. Power Trip’s songs are full of little back picked elements that add power in ways that are hard to quantify or to describe in the abstract. I found myself thinking of the picking style of Artillery’s first couple of records. The drums are clearer as well, and I really loved the snare sound, thick and thudding, but with enough tone to cut through and be heard.

Nightmare Logic is one of the best exemplars of the thrashmetal genre to be released in at least the last five years. It’s got a lot of variety and changes of speed, and the musicianship is about as close to flawless you’re ever going to hear. I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting a great deal to begin with, these guys have produced some really hard rocking stuff that’s going to be infesting my stereo (and tormenting my neighbors) for a long time to come.

Review: Cruz

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , on March 31, 2017 by Magadh

Cruz, Culto Abismal, Sentient Ruin Laboratories

cruz1The dregs of this shit week were enlivened by the receipt of this awesome disk. What we have here is eight helpings of extremely tasty death metal riffage. It’s mostly middling in tempo (right about the speed and gruffness of Corpse’s classic “Black Dawn) and I have to say I like that. Blast beats are cool and all, and they really seemed like something novel to me when I heard Napalm Death do them in the 1980s, but they’re really not my favorite part of death metal.

These Barcelona thrashers have a pretty good formula: crushing, straightforward death metal with galloping beats and utterly tortured vocals. There are a lot of bands to which they might be compared. They sort of remind me of a kind of grimier sounding version of Entombed, although they generally don’t get up to the speeds that Swedes moved at. But that’s just fine. Cruz have an idea of what they want to do and the execute their plan with panache and aggression.

cruz2This disc has been on repeat in my car for the best part of a week now, and every time I listen to it I pick up some nuance or vibe that I hadn’t caught before. The thing that differentiates them from a lot of bands that don’t roll at super high speeds is that their riffs are complex and compelling. They’re not content to just chug along on damped bar chords. Not to harp on the Entombed thing, but their riffs sort of put me in mind of a more aggressive version of Clandestine.

The sound of this record is absolutely perfect: dark and dismal, but clear enough to let the music shine through. Culto Abismal was recorded and mixed by Javi Félez (bassist in Graveyard who are only marginally less awesome). It was mastered by none other than Brad Boatright, who pretty much turns everything he touches into dark, thrashy gold, and this is no exception. Boatright brings a certain bleak aesthetic to everything he does, and Culto Abismal is a perfect example of this. It is a dark, swirling mass of sound rolling forward with the momentum of a freight train.

Yeah, just to sum up, this is the best thing I’ve heard since the last Martyrdöd album came out, and but for the awesomeness of that record it would be the best release that I heard from 2016. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to crank this up again and keep on rocking until the apocalypse descends.

Review: Our Place of Worship is Silence

Posted in Reviews with tags , , on March 28, 2017 by Magadh

Our Place of Worship is Silence, The Embodiment of Hate, Broken Limbs Recordings

 

opwis1This came out in October of last year and I really meant to review it then. But at that point I was so drowned in real world foolishness that it slipped away. But I guess that’s how it always seems to work. I’m seldom right up on the cutting edge of events.

 

The first thing that needs to be said about this record is that it nearly caused me to wreck my car on the highway. This was not due to its overwhelming quality, but rather to the peculiarity of its recording values. I have a car stereo that’s old enough to where I can’t like my phone to it wirelessly and have to depend on a hardline connection. Quite often the first sign that the jack is breaking is that only one of the stereo tracks will play. As I made the turn onto I-90, I must admit that I was rather distracted at the thought that this was happening and my efforts to jiggle the cable back to life I nearly ran off the road.

 

opowis2The fact of the matter is that this record sounds like it was recorded in a sewer pipe by a crew of bigfoots (bigfeet?) who stumbled on to someone’s gear all set up and decided to bang out some death metal. Strange as it may sound to say it, this actually works. There are lots of records that one could point to in which the the deficiencies of the recording actually end up adding, in some only partially expressable way, to the quality of the output. One example might be Sacrilege’s Behind the Altars of Madness, where the imprecision of the recording process gives the music a dark, swirling quality that makes up for any lack of clarity is made up for richly in terms of the atmosphere it creates.

 

The Embodiment of Hate has a grubby, discontinuous quality which holds the interest quite nicely. I’ve read other reviewers compare this early Nihilist demos, but to me it sounds like Nominon, especially in their demo phase (which can be heard here, here, and here). In any case, the comparisons are more about tone and texture than the actual music itself. The music is guttural, the tuning low, I mean really low. I could probably hear this music better if I was an elephant or perhaps some species of gray whale, but the parts that I can hear I like.

opowis3I suppose that my only real beef with this record is that off all the changes in level amongst the various instruments I find that the guitars are never quite as loud as I’d like them. Of course, I’m a guitarist, so caveat very much emptor. I feel like I can hear different things more prominently at different times. The effect of this is to give each cut an individuality that their collective grunginess and simplicity might not intrinsically convey.

 

In all seriousness, this is a pretty ripping slab of death metal. The riffs are dark and unrelenting, and the vocalist sounds like he’s spent the last six months gargling masonry nails. They’ve found a way to write simple, straighforward metal songs that keep you interested. It doesn’t sound clean or clear, but it sounds right and that is, in fact, a lot more important.

The Return of Jessica Jones

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , on March 20, 2017 by Magadh

jj2I’ve been a little behind in my comic reading, so I’ve only just gotten current on the run of Jessica Jones that’s going on right now. This was a title that I had (and to an extent still have) high hopes for. Jessica Jones is an interesting character and, Brian Michael Bendis (who wrote the original Alias series of that title) is running the show again, and it comes with a reader’s advisory tag, which at least means that people confronting life threatening emergencies won’t respond by saying “oh darn.” Having gotten through the first arc I will say that, although I enjoyed it, the presentation of Jessica Jones has, once again, not quite lived up to the excellence of Bendis and Gaydos’s original.

 

Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m kind of obsessed with Jessica Jones. I blame my pal Meredith, who first turned me on to Brian Michael Bendis’s original arc from Alias that ran from 2001 to 2004. When I got done with it I was pretty much ready to give up reading comics because I wasn’t sure there was anything better left to do. Bendis’s arc had an undeniable brilliance. It combined elements of continuity and discontinuity to tell a compelling story. For instance, the creators used collage in a way that I have not seen very often (especially in Marvel-linked titles). They also brought in J. Jonah Jameson in just about the most interesting way I’ve ever seen. There’s a seriously hilarious sequence in which Jessica Jones is out on a date with Scott Lang. They’re having dinner at an outdoor restaurant when Dr. Octopus rolls by being chased by Spider Man. They spend a moment considering whether they’re going to do something about it, and then Scott Lang says something like, “I don’t really have my gear with me” and they go back to their date.

 

Jessica Jones is interesting because, and precisely to the extent, that she doesn’t fit the traditional mold of the comic book super hero.  Bendis created a character that is an expression of the complex web of agency and fallibility in which human beings live their lives. She was an Avenger, but decided that she didn’t really fit in there. Instead of going out as a solo costumed hero, she chose the more low key life of a private investigator. This is clearly meant to be read as an outgrowth of her will to define and defend her own agency. Being part of the Avengers means compulsory teamwork. Being an individual costumed hero also means being beholden to others, perhaps to the public at large, but at least to screwball pseudo-populists of the like of J. Jonah Jameson. Working as a private eye allows her to control the obligations that she takes on.

 

And therein lies a further point of interest. Although Jones is a reluctant hero, she also feels a certain obligation to help people who are vulnerable. While this sort of duality in terms motivation is not entirely unheard of in the world of superheroes, more often than not it is rendered in the key of macho which effectively drains its emotional force, at least for readers older than about 12. Bendis has really done the world a service by presenting us with a female superhero who doesn’t have to be perfect, who gets drunk sometimes, who fails sometimes, and who is still dead set on living her life on her own terms and no one else’s.

 

The central event in the Bendis narrative is Jones’s encounter with Zebediah Killgrave (alias the Purple Man), a deeply nasty individual capable to compelling people to unquestioningly obey his commands. There’s a lot of backstory to this guy, the essential points of which can be picked up here, but suffice to say that this former Daredevil villain is seriously horrifying. Jones’s interaction with him is particularly grim because he takes from her the one thing that she views as most essentially hers (agency), turning her into a weapon for the accomplishment of his ends.  Ultimately, Jones is able to free herself from his control (and breaks his neck) because Jean Grey had implanted a psychic defense trigger in her mind after an earlier encounter with him. Once she knows she has a choice, the reclaims her agency, dispatching Killgrave in the process. The panel below is one of my favorite ever:

jj1

Needless to say, I was really excited when it was announced the Marvel was going to be partnering with Netflix to bring out a full fledged Jessica Jones series. I didn’t know much about Krysten Ritter at the time (although I’ve since watched Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23 and quite enjoyed it), but it seemed to me that casting David Tennant as the Purple Man was a pretty good sign.

 

jj4Sadly, the end product didn’t quite live up to expectations. Partly it had to do with some unfortunately plot decisions. At one point, Jessica Jones decides that the way to show people Killgrave’s power and criminality by getting herself thrown in a supermax prison. Ok, clearly it’s very difficult to demonstrate mind control to people, but this is a plan that couldn’t possibly work, and, although I think it was meant to reflect her desperation, it ended up making her seem stupid. Later on in the show, Jessica Jones manages imprison Killgrave in a room where his voice is muted (his power is based on the interaction between his voice and some sort of microbe that he exudes). She comes up with a plan that involves introducing Killgrave’s parents into the room. Shockingly, this plan also goes horribly, horribly wrong and anyone who thought about it for around two second beforehand would have been able to predict this.

 

At a more general level, I really wish that we had gotten to see a bit more of the Jessica Jones PI aspect of things. Killgrave was made creepier by his absence. In fact, his proxies were much more frightening than he was when he was actually on screen. Although Tennant played him to nauseating perfection, it would have been better if we’d seen him less. But there was simply no way to do that given the fact that they had cast a big name like Tennant. It wasn’t his fault, and in a way it wasn’t fault of the people producing the show, since I’m sure that they reckoned (correctly) that Tennant’s name would draw viewers who might not be all that interested in the character of Jessica Jones. Still, it meant that they had to turn him into a middle of the screen type of villain, which didn’t really do the overall atmosphere of the show any favors.

 

jj3I had high hopes for the new comic version, and these hopes may still be fulfilled, but I’m afraid the first mini-arc hasn’t quite filled the bill. We start with Jessica Jones having just gotten out of prison, for what we are never actually told, but it’s something that compromised her relationship with the Avengers as well as with Luke Cage, the father of her child. The arc starts off strong, with some interesting interplay between Jones and Cage, and with some of the kind of JJ as detective material that one really wants to see. But then it spirals off into some weird things that don’t seem to develop JJ’s character very much. Worse yet, from my perspective anyway, is the connection that it forges with the Civil War II arc which a) went of for too long already and b) wasn’t all that interesting to begin with.

 

One of the things that the comic version has going for it is that, unlike with the MCU and their Netflix partnership, it’s possible to include some other superheroes  without paying whatever gigantic sum it would cost to get Chris Evans or Robert Downey Jr. (to say nothing of Scarlett Johansson) into the action. So it would have been nice to see some other superhero type interactions over and above the obligatory stuff with Carol Danvers and a somewhat entertaining Jessica Drew cameo.

 

What the original comic series has going forward that this new version seems to lack is a kind of emotional depth. It’s not as if the story isn’t entertaining, but there doesn’t seem to be the same collage-like approach to creating the character that made the first iteration so entertaining. Admittedly this isn’t entirely the fault of Bendis and co. In the first place they did create a very high bar. And in the second, they were very much working with a tabula rasa in terms of Jones’s character, since she hadn’t been developed very extensively at all up to that point. Still, it would be nice to see a bit more of the little story pieces that add up to something more than the sum of the parts.

 

Just so we understand each other, I think this is worth getting. The artwork is dark and beautiful and sometimes almost looks like woodcuts. They’ve had a series of covers done by David Mack (who also did the covers on the rerelease of the original series), predominantly in watercolor (or at least so it looks to me) and those are really beautiful. Given the creative team involved and the willingness of Marvel to put money into this title (since there’s going to be a second JJ series after she appears in The Defenders later this year), there’s every reason to believe that they can up the level of quality to what it was in the original. But it hasn’t quite gotten there yet.

Review: Nashgul

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on March 17, 2017 by Magadh

Nashgul Cárcava Selfmadegod Records

nashgul1I’m not an alcoholic, although it’s probably fair to say that from time to time have had a relationship to alcohol that was not entirely healthy. I mention this because I’ve been told in such a way as to believe it that one characteristic of alcoholics is that they’re always chasing after the high that they get from the first drink. I certainly can relate. That first beer tends to go down awful smooth, and then for the rest of the evening I’m wishing I could find the level of enjoyment that I got at the very beginning.

 

My relationship to grindcore maps on to this. I’ve been listening to exemplars of this kind of music for a lot of years. And I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of it. From Napalm Death, to Repulsion, to Brutal Truth, and lots of more obscure acts than that. But for me the truly defining instance of grindcore is Terrorizer. I can still remember hearing the opening bars of “After World Obliteration” and being absolutely stunned. Admittedly I actually heard World Downfall after some of the others. I’d heard Mentally Murdered, From Enslavement to Obliteration, and Horrified (just to name a few) months before I heard Terrorizer, and (for what tiny amount this is worth) I actually saw Napalm Death a few times in 1986 (at which point they were doing like 30 songs in fifteen minutes). But World Downfall is the disc that defines the genre for me.

 

Nashgul2I have to admit that I got something like the old feeling the first time I cranked up Cárcava, the new disc from veteran Spanish grinders Nashgul. Which is not to say that this sounds a great deal like Terrorizer (as you might expect from my natterings in the preceding two paragraphs), but this record does have a lot of similar qualities. The guitars sound like someone tearing a piece of sheetmetal apart. Although downtuned pretty considerably, they are still crisp enough for one to actually hear what’s going. The singer kind of sounds like he’s gargling thumbtacks, very much as you’d expect, but he’s actually coherent enough that I might actually be able to understand at least some of what he’s saying (if it weren’t’ for the fact that it’s all in Spanish). Most importantly, they use the blast beat judiciously, employing it for emphasis but not getting married to it. This gives the music a varied quality that goes a long way to keeping one interested.

 

 

This is their first full length in seven years or so. In the meantime they’ve done a few ep’s and splits, including one with War Master that was quite good, although they only released a couple of hundred copies. But one thing you will notice if you go back and listen to El Día Después Al Fin De La Humanidad that there is a common (and very high) quality across the two recordings. Lot’s of this stuff it available on Bandcamp, so you should probably go ahead and get it there, if for no other reason that the incomparable joy of instant gratification.

 

Ok, pretty much any band with a Tolkien reference in the name will get me to listen at least once, but I must say that I was pretty stoked to find this release. All too often bands in this genre just go through sort of formulaic progression. Obviously, the thing that defines the genre is, to some extent at least, adherence to some sort of formula. But these guys execute their thing with serious aggression, but also enough variation from the norm to make this a really enjoyable disc.

 

My Life as Scored by Bob Mould

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on August 13, 2016 by Magadh

mould coverBob Mould, Patch the Sky (Merge, 2016)

It goes without saying that, generally speaking, I make no pretense of objectivity, at least when it comes to matters of art. This is true as a general principle, but it applies with particular force when the matter under consideration is the work of Bob Mould. On his new record, Patch the Sky, Mould produces and excellent exemplar of his stock in trade: expansive guitar melodies carried along on a dense, metallic swirl. This is what I want from Bob Mould, although strangely he hasn’t always given it to me.

I can still recall riding home from my local record store (Hot Poop in Walla Walla, Washington) in the summer of 1983 with a copy of Hüsker Dü’s first album, Everything Falls Apart in a bag slung over the handlebars of my ten speed. I remember thinking how different it was from most of the punk records that I was listening to in those days. The guitar sounded thick, not tinny as on so many early punk releases, and Bob Mould’s voice had a note of melancholy that I found gripping. I listened to it again and again, especially “Gravity,” the breakdown section of which still makes the hair rise on the back of my neck.

Metal Circus, released in the fall of that year, moved their game forward considerably. The recording was better, the songs more compact and aggressive. The lyrics had developed too, addressing topics like alcoholism, rape, and political violence at a level above the standard punk polemics, but in a way that was accessible, at least to my adolescent way of thinking.

The next summer the band released Zen Arcade, one of the most complex, inventive, and challenging records that the punk rock underground ever produced. At the time I was not exactly sure what to make of it. It had songs like “Something That I Learned Today” and “Pink Turns to Blue” that seemed to build on the melodic direction of their earlier work. But it also had things like the Hare Krishna chant and “Reoccuring Dreams” that made me think that perhaps they’d taken a little bit too much acid while in the studio (which may not have been too far from the truth).

I got New Day Rising while I was away at camp in Minnesota, about six months after it came out. It was much more coherent and direct than its predecessor. Clearly, Hüsker Dü were moving in a more pop direction, and this caused a lot of debate within the punk scene as to whether that was ok. I was fine with it. Their sound was developing, and the fact of the matter was that they continued to write songs that I found compelling. Well, when I say “they” I really mean Bob Mould. I was just never a fan of Grant Hart’s music. It seemed too reminiscent of the pop music of the 1960s, and to me that was one of the things against which the new music was rebelling. Bob Mould’s songs were expansive and melodic without looking backward, and that was what kept me listening.

If New Day Rising provided the anthemic backdrop to the summer of 1985, that winter’s soundtrack was Flip Your Wig. Hüsker Dü’s music was changing, their lyrics becoming more introspective. I listened to “Green Eyes” a lot (the rare Grant Hart song that I really liked) because it reminded me of a girl I had a crush on. But the song that really stuck with me was “Games,” where Bob Mould struggled to come to terms with what it meant to be prominent, and the meaning of fame more generally. I had never really thought about that before. I always assumed that being famous would be great, and that anybody who complained about it must be some sort of jerk. It had never occurred to me that it might be troubling to have so many strangers care about your opinion, probably since in those days very few people gave a crap about mine. [Not that it’s much different today, I just care about it less…]

Hüsker Dü and I parted ways in 1986. I moved to Nottingham and got very involved in the European crust/d-beat scene. But I did know that the shift to Warner Bros. had caused a lot of turbulence among the band’s existing fan base. As I recall, Bob Mould actually wrote a piece in the January 1986 edition of Maximum Rock n Roll trying to explain and justify the jump to all the people who had followed them in the underground scene. The people that I was hanging around with in those days, mostly anarchists, squatter, hunt saboteurs, and the like, were completely dismissive of this. I too felt kind of betrayed, but I was also suspicious about what the demands of major label production would do to the band’s sound.

When I got back I ran into by best friend Chris, who had loved the band as I did. I asked him about their most recent release, Candy Apple Grey.

“It sucks,” he said, “don’t bother.” And I didn’t. I probably didn’t listen to Candy Apple Grey, or its successor, the diffuse and directionless Warehouse: Songs and Stories, for 15 years. When I finally did I didn’t really like either one. Candy Apple Grey just sounds empty to me, and whether that’s a matter of the producers trying to mute Mould‘s overwhelming guitar tones, or my own residual feelings of betrayal (or some combination of the two) I still don’t have enough personal distance to say. The songs on Warehouse (with one or two exceptions) have always sounded to me like outtakes from the sessions for the previous album.

Nor did I listen to Bob Mould’s first solo release, Workbook, at least not more than a couple of times. At that point I was still morally opposed to solo releases by people who’d been in bands that I loved. To me it smacked of self-indulgence. I did buy (and am still one of the few people to really enjoy) Black Sheets of Rain, after I read a review of it in Rolling Stone that began:

If you thought Bob Mould’s angst-ridden solo debut, Workbook, was a blast of heavy weather, you’ll need a steel umbrella to withstand the torrential distortion and gale-force rage of Black Sheets of Rain. This album contains none of Workbook‘s pensive acoustic eloquence or diligent guitar orchestration. Black Sheets of Rain is nothing more, or less, than a long, loud howl of pain – blinding anger, unremitting loveache, debilitating loneliness – broadcast from power-trio hell.

I think that record only sold about 7000 copies (I bought two). The recording quality was remarkably bad. It sounded like Mould was in one room and the two guys from the Golden Palominos were in another, and they just hadn’t bothered to integrate the tracks. Still, that record spoke (and speaks) to me in a way that Workbook never did. I went and saw him on tour that year. The show was actually a lot better than the record, at least in terms of how it sounded. For an encore he came out alone with his acoustic guitar and played some Hüsker Dü songs (I don’t remember which ones but it was great). Then the rest of the band came back on stage and they played one of the best versions of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” that I’ve ever heard in my life.

Mould’s next project, Sugar, started out strong for me. Copper Blue was a fabulous record. It was a bit of a change for Mould in the sense that his guitar was slightly more muted and better integrated with the other musicians. It still had the same compelling melodies that had defined his music from the outset and the lyrics were heartfelt and, in the case of “The Slim” unbearably moving. Having said all that, I really didn’t get into either Beaster or File under Easy Listening. It’s not that they were bad records, I just didn’t like the songs.

Then I sort of lost touch again. This was in part due to the fact that the mainline of my tastes runs to things harder and faster. It will come as no surprise to anyone who has read few of my posts that I spend my time listening to Skit System, and Disfear, and Martyrdöd and that I generally don’t have a lot of time for things melodic and/or mainstream. I listening to Bob Mould (1996) and The Last Dog and Pony Show (1998) maybe once or twice apiece, but they just didn’t grab me and I consigned Bob Mould to the ranks of artists from whose work my tastes had moved on. This was a sad thing for me. Every now and then I would spin up Metal Circus or  New Day Rising and wish that there was something that tapped whatever it was that I loved about those records for me again. But it didn’t happen.

Then last year I was up late at night and I happened to be watching David Letterman. This in itself was real serendipity, since I haven’t watched a whole episode of that in the better part of a decade. But I was watching and I happened to catch Bob Mould do a couple of songs from what was at that point his most recent album (Beauty and Ruin, 2014). And they were burning. Apparently they were performed at such volume that dust shook down from the rafters. In that moment I thought, “Ok, I’ve gotten enough joy from this guy’s music that I’ll give whatever he puts out at least a chance.

So now we come to his latest release, Patch the Sky. Like his preceding two records (Silver Age and Beauty and Ruin), it’s out on Merge Records, and his association with this label seems to have come about at the same time as the move away from the sort of navel-gazy period that he went through in the oughties. I’ve now gone back and listened to most of those records, and I don’t feel like I missed that much. Patch the Sky, however, rocks quite as hard as his other Merge releases (i.e. hard).

The opening cut on Patch the Sky is the kind of Sugar-esque “Voices in My Head,” pleasing but not mindblowing. But the then Patch finds its stride with the over the top, overdriven melodicism of “The End of Things” (which could perhaps be the theme song for my life right now). “Hold On” is a minor key rocker that wouldn’t have been out of place on Black Sheets of Rain, but is better recorded and mixed than any of the cuts on that record.

“You Say You” features another one of those broad, exuberant melodies that Mould had been churning out for the best part of four decades. “Losing Sleep” pulls things back to a more contemplative place, but maintains the fullness of the albums overall sonic profile with some well-considered chordal additions from bassist Jason Narducy. And perhaps this is moment to say that the players that Mould is now working with are, for my money, the best that he has worked with since the 1980s. Narducey and drummer Jon Wurster seem to have a visceral understanding of what Mould is trying to accomplish and fill out the sound without stepping on it.

“Pray for Rain” is another that evinces Sugar pretty strongly, joyfully spinning through series of dense and beautiful sonic landscapes at foot-tapping tempo. “Lucifer and God” slows things down again but with a spiraling melodic overlay that gives the song a lush, almost intoxicating groove. “Daddy’s Favorite” seriously sounds like it could have been recorded by Ozzy Osbourne, with a wealth of sorts of metallic guitar overlays that give Mould‘s compositions their more hard rocking dimension. “Hands Are Tied” is a straight ahead melodic punk tune that wouldn’t have been out of place on New Day Rising or Flip Your Wig.

An so it goes. The songs change focus and tempo, but the overall content is consistent and the quality is consistently high. Patch the Sky is more than just a suitable companion to Silver Age and Beauty and Ruin. It is, to my ear at least, the place that those discs were going. Bob Mould seems to have rediscovered the muscular melodies that have driven his music since the 1980s, and his latest return to form gives one hope that the well of creativity from which he has for so long drawn has not yet run try.

Review: War on Women

Posted in Reviews with tags , , on August 4, 2016 by Magadh

War on Women s/t Bridge 9 Records

wowI always like seeing women break into the rock and roll boys club. I’ve heard about as many songs about man pain as I can stand at this point. Truth to tell, the thing I always liked about the underground scene was the space that it set up for women to express themselves outside the framework of dude-centered culture. And thus I was so often disappointed when the same old dude-centric tropes seemed always to be reproduced, whatever the rhetoric of inclusion might have suggested.

It’s been my privilege to see a lot of women with powerful souls getting their rock on. I wish everyone could have seen Tam Simpson fronting Sacrilege in their heyday, inscribing the poetry of the apocalypse across their blistering metal swirl. That was brilliant, but it was one woman in a four piece, and if it’s not quite fair to say that that doesn’t count, still it doesn’t seem to quite get to the cultural place of bands like Bikini Kill or Sleater-Kinney in which women were the entire creative force.

Baltimore’s War on Women is a hybrid between these two conditions. Three out of the five members are women, including singer Shawna Potter, guitarist Nancy Hornburg, and bassist Suzanne Werner. But War on Women’s feminism is not so much a matter of having women at the skill positions (although that’s important too) but in their unabashed and unapologetic political stance. From their name, to the cover of their most recent eponymous release (which gets my vote for best of the decade), to their forthright discussions of topics like rape, abortion, and dude culture on the internet, this is a band whose values are front and center, and whose way of expressing them takes no prisoners.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that their message is delivered in a musical voice that would make you sit up and listen even if they didn’t have something important to say. There’s a lot of this disc that sounds like Swiz without the metallic overtones, or a slightly less melodic take on early Dag Nasty. But then there are also plenty of passages that are simple, fist-to-the-jaw punk, and the mixture makes for very interesting listening.

War on Women ticks all the boxes. They’re a punk band that actually has something to say, which is, frankly, all too rare (and not just these days). This is something that underground music (to say nothing of American culture generally) needs more of. War on Women demand to be taken on their own terms and to have their commitments heard and taken seriously. And they rock, which doesn’t hurt at all. They’re on tour in Europe now, and if you live over there, go see them. Yes, you.

For more on War on Women

https://bitchmedia.org/post/meet-baltimore-feminist-hardcore-band-war-on-women

https://waronwomen.bandcamp.com/music

https://www.reverbnation.com/waronwomen

http://www.bridge9.com/waronwomen